LOUISVILLE, Ky. — During last year’s NBA Draft, Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo sat on a cross-country flight bound for Los Angeles. And when the plane landed, he turned on his cellphone and saw the text messages pour in.
There were hundreds of them, he recalled, and rightly so, as the Celtics had just traded Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to the Brooklyn Nets in a blockbuster swap.
Then last month, Rondo was again on a plane headed to Los Angeles on the eve of the draft, and when the flight landed this time, his phone stayed calm.
“I didn’t have a thousand text messages, so I knew I was still a Celtic or that we didn’t make any big trades,” he said with a laugh Monday during a break at his basketball camp, held in his hometown.
The Celtics kept Rondo and their picks, drafting Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart at No. 6 and then Kentucky swingman James Young at No. 17.
The crowd of Celtics season-ticket holders attending a draft party at TD Garden that night offered a mixed reaction when the selection of Smart was announced on the JumboTron. After all, Smart plays the same position as Rondo, so were the Celtics drafting Rondo’s replacement?
And if not, what of Rondo’s future in Boston?
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said on draft night that picking Smart means nothing for Rondo, and he’s maintained that stance.
Rondo takes a similar position on the matter.
“I don’t think nothing of it,” he said, shrugging his shoulders. “I am who I am.”
Indeed, Rondo appears comfortable in his own skin with his own list of credentials — a four-time All-Star who won a championship in 2008.
Doug Bibby, Rondo’s coach at Eastern High School in Louisville and also the director of Rondo’s camp, offered a somewhat similar take when asked about the Celtics’ drafting Smart.
“It won’t affect [Rondo],” Bibby said. “If anything, it just woke up a beast.”
Ainge said that he didn’t inform Rondo on draft night that he was selecting a point guard, and he told the Globe last week that the two hadn’t chatted in the days following the draft, either. (Ainge added that he hadn’t talked about that with any other current members of the team.)
But Rondo said he doesn’t believe he needs to hear any assurances from Ainge about his role on the Celtics.
“No. That’s fine,” Rondo said, adding, “I don’t have too many feelings involved in this business. I’ve played my heart out for the game, but business is business. I can be here today, gone tomorrow. You never know. For me to get bent out of shape, or to feel threatened by the Celtics drafting a point guard, it means nothing.”
If anything, Rondo might just be used to any uncertainty, or alleged uncertainty, about his position with the Celtics, as he has been surrounded by almost daily trade rumors for years.
Beyond that, though, Rondo said he likes the players the team drafted.
“I think we got some good picks, some really good picks,” Rondo said. “What I like about Smart is that he competes. He kind of reminds me [of myself]. I like the guys that compete and remind me of myself, guys like [Kendrick Perkins]. That’s not to say that nobody on the team this year didn’t compete. Avery [Bradley] is one of the best competitors that we have in this league.
“But not a lot of young guys come in and you can get that feel right away that they will compete. So I think that’s a big pickup for us in that aspect. I think having a guy on the wing that will defend along with Avery and myself, and has a lot more size and strength, that will be big.
“And then Young, I’ve been watching him since he played at Kentucky [Rondo’s alma mater]. He’s a knockdown shooter. I’ve heard that he’s even a better shooter than what we’ve seen in the games.
“It’ll be fun to get to practice with both these guys, to get to know them, to get a feel for them, what they like to do, where they like the ball, and just continue to grow.”
(For the record, Smart said on draft night that Rondo “reminds me a little bit of me. He plays defense. He’s long, his wing span, and he has big hands.” So both players see some similarities in each other.)
The Celtics have said that they believe Smart and Rondo can play together, with Smart at shooting guard and Rondo playing point guard.
They also have said that Rondo, Smart, and Bradley can form a potent three-guard rotation.
How that unfolds is unknown, but for now, Rondo is faced with tutoring a player who also plays his position, something he said he has only done once in Boston — last season with undrafted rookie Phil Pressey.
“I’ve had a lot of guys that I’ve tried to help their game, but Phil Pressey is probably the first one, like an actual point guard that knows the game, a true point that makes decisions out there, [that I’ve worked with],” Rondo said.
He added, “When I watch the game, I see what decisions [a point guard] makes vs. what decisions I would make. [Pressey] makes a lot of good decisions. He’s a little flashy here and there, but I am. Or I was. He has a great eye.”
Has Rondo seen Smart play at all?
“No, the only time I saw him play was the incident he had [an altercation with a fan at Texas Tech], and I really didn’t get to see him play, because once I turned it on he was pretty much thrown out of the game,” Rondo said. “I’ve never really seen him play. I’ve only seen Young play because it was Kentucky.”
But Rondo also admitted that he wasn’t really following any other college players closely last season, either.
“I don’t even know who was in this draft,” Rondo said. “And there’s not one player that can come in and [dominate]. As a rookie, it’s just not proven that you can come in and win games in the playoffs. It takes time. This is a hell of a game. Even LeBron [James] couldn’t do it. He did it [eventually], but then he got swept by the Spurs [in the 2007 NBA Finals]. And that’s LeBron. Nobody in this draft is nowhere near him.”